Tag Archives: Schism

All Anglicans Together?

I’ve written many times over recent months over the increasing contortions that parts of the Anglican Communion are going through in order to remain Anglican, but exclude another group in the Church that they think aren’t Anglicans. The Global South grouping of Churches within the Anglican Communion has recently had a meeting, which produced a communiqué detailing the results of the meeting. Interestingly the document as a whole is carefully phrased and in a number newspaper reports has been incorrectly described as being backed by all twenty of the provinces represented. As with previous letters it has transpired that the communiqué has not received unanimous support at the meeting, indeed the South African primate has already released a statement distancing himself from the document.

Not surprisingly the document relates back to the same ongoing issue over the actions of the Episcopal Church in the US, specifically the fact that they didn’t boot out Gene Robinson at their recent convention (not that they could). Of course the other issue is that the Episcopal Church also elected Katharine Jefferts Schori as their primate, so another part of the communiqué requests that somebody else be sent to the next primates meeting from the Episcopal Church to represent those parts of the church that don’t agree with her election.

The document also proposes what is effectively a church within a church in the USA having a ‘traditional’ Anglican Church under the umbrella of the Global South provinces, but one that is still within the Anglican Communion. The key part of this proposal being that ‘traditional’ churches in the US will join the traditional church This again goes back to the fact that the traditionalists cannot break with Canterbury because to many to be an Anglican requires being in communion with the Archbishop, and will result in this ludicrous arrangement whereby the two parts of the Episcopal Church will both regard themselves as being in communion with Canterbury, but not with each other. The irony in all of the mud slinging over the Episcopal Church not having responded to the Windsor Report is that another part of the same report explicity speaks against just the sort of meddling in other provinces that the Global South are proposing.

As I’ve said before, the increasing contortions that various groups are going through not to leave are just getting more and more tedious, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the ripples from this are bound to rock the Church of England too – in this case because there will be Churches in the Church of England who will decide to join the ‘traditional’ Anglican Church.

Is Anyone Happy with B033?

So everything has panned out pretty much as expected. The Americans pulled together a last minute motion, B033, that reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the communion.

However, nobody really seems happy about it. The Diocese of Washington has published a ‘Statement of Conscience‘, essentially distancing themselves from the resolution because firstly it was only briefly discussed, and secondly because it discriminates. Father Jake, as would be expected, has a much more direct and forthright response.

Looking on the other side of the rift, the Anglican Communion Network published this statment describing the measure as inadequate. Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria was quick with a response too.

There is even comment from a participant in the General Convention who believes that the motion was the centre ground speaking. However if you read further, even he isn’t happy with the result.

So could it have been any different? Could there have been a solution that would make everybody happy? I think not. Nothing short of the removal of the Bishop of New Hampshire, and a legal block on any similar appointments (something I don’t think was even possible under the canon law of the church in a single convention) and the most pitiful, grovelling statement – the verbal equivalent of crawling through the streets in sackcloth and ashes would have satisfied the conservative side. Equally, any move that can be seen as in any way discriminatory would be unacceptable to the liberal wing. Essentially, the only solution would be one that made one group or another happy, not both. What they finished up with was one which pleased nobody, too wishy-washy for the conservatives, and a perceived slap in the face to the liberals.

So what should have happened? Reading the discussion, I was reminded of John Shelby Spong’s call for a new reformation. In a similar way to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517, Spong published 12 theses online, and in his book “New Christianity for a New Worldâ€?, the twelfth of which is:

All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

Maybe, rather that being, well Anglican about it all, the Episcopal General Convention, realising that no compromise that they would produce would satisfy the conservatives, gone with what they believed, and have backed at previous conventions, and effectively kicked off the new reformation proposed by Spong. Instead, the resolution has alienated and offended parts of the church, without doing anything more than postponing the inevitable break-up of the Anglican Communion. To be frank, the beliefs expressed by both groups are so deep seated that neither is ever going to be happy unless the other moves their position, and since the conservative group isn’t happy for the liberal to be in the same Church (although in general the liberal group seem to be happy to include the conservatives), it seems better that they separate. (This of course will get on to another whole load of terribly earnest but totally tedious and irrelevant arguments over who is the ‘true’ Anglican church. To be honest, who cares?) At least then the two groups can actually get back to doing what the church is called to do, rather than arguing amongst themselves.

Should Anglicans Welcome Schism?

So for the third time in as many days, more Anglican church discussion. I had thought that I’d leave the topic for a bit, but having read an opinion piece by Damian Thompson entitled ‘Anglicans should welcome a schism’ in yesterdays Telegraph, especially comparing it with the sermon that we got at St James on 11th June from the soon-to-be assistant to the Bishop of Europe, currently a chaplain at Wellington College.

Looking at the sermon first, being Trinity Sunday, it paralleled the Trinity with the Church, the Trinity being an example of three distinct and different entities that are part of one whole. The essential thrust of the sermon was that this is how the Church should be. The essential point of the sermon was that Church unity was of primary importance.

Contrast this with ‘Anglicans should welcome a schism‘ which is based around the premise that the Anglican Communion has essentially not been a communion since parts of it failed to recognise all the priests ordained in other provinces after the first ordinations of women. The general gist of the article is that we’ll all be better off with the Anglican Communion as we know it gone. However at least part of the purpose of the article seems to be to wind up as many different Anglican groups as possible (which from the comments he seems to have done).

For example he describes the behaviour of George Carey on his foreign trips is described as ‘quasi-papal’, says that ‘some bishops of the Episcopal Church have more in common with a crystal-gazing Californian housewife than George Herbert‘, and says that many parishes in Australia have fallen into the hands of Protestant iconoclasts whose hatred of Popish practices makes Ian Paisley look positively ecumenical’. He also seems to lay the blame for the increasing radicalisation of parts of the Church of England at the door of the Anglican Communion. Whilst the article as a whole is pretty provocative, it does make some interesting points, and certainly the point that the communion hasn’t really been in communion for years reminded me of the furore when I was a child when, pre the ordination of women an American woman priest came and celebrated communion in an Anglican church in London.

On reflection, I have to say that I tend to agree more with the Telegraph article than the sermon two weeks ago, not least because all the arguments and politics seem to me to be totally missing the point – what is the point of a church that spends it’s entire time arguing over technicalities, over who can and can’t be members, rather than actually doing the work the church was set up to do? As I’ve said before, I’m finding the whole thing increasingly tedious, and seriously, having to put up with more of these kind of arguments up to Lambeth 2008 and beyond doesn’t exactly fill me with joy. However I fear that that will be what we will get, as both sides regard themselves as the true Anglicans. This is probably where I disagreed most with our preacher two weeks ago, as he said that the Church was weaker for different groups threatening to leave. This assessment is totally opposite to what I see – no group is threatening to leave, they all want to stay, but instead it’s one group wanting another to leave, or be forcibly ejected… None of the groups are going to leave willingly, and I doubt that any group will be booted out either, so we’re left with the ridiculous situation of everybody claiming to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, whilst not being in communion with each other.